Marlanda Dekine on Inheritance, Poetic Tension and What Helps her Write

Tell us about your creative work—do you have a preferred genre or aesthetic? Are there forms you want to try?

My poems have always come out of my experience as a Black, queer, gender non-conforming daughter of generations of preaching, wild, and direct folk, living in Plantersville, South Carolina. My experience as a social worker also informs my writing. My current manuscript, I feel, is dealing with my dead, my roots, the family land we inherited, and Plantersville’s connection to plantations and taking up space as our own.

I’d say my background is probably what drew me to the work of Saul Williams and Patricia Smith. When I decided I, still, liked writing and sharing poetry, I bought “The Spoken Word Redux”, and I lived with their cadences of courage over YouTube. I was an undergrad, then. While I’m drawn to those writers as my starting place in reading poems, I don’t have a preferred genre or aesthetic. 

I’m very interested in learning and pushing the boundaries of what constitutes a poem as well as demystifying the real work that poems do in the world. For this reason, I’m also drawn to the work of Lucille Clifton and Martin Espada. “Leave the idea that “poetry makes nothing happen” to the poets whose poetry makes nothing happen” per Martin Espada. 

I like quiet tension and intense desire within a poem as much as I enjoy staring seriously into the face of something broken within our world, or the human condition, and asking questions about the roots of the fissure. I don’t mind yelling or singing it out!

What are you reading right now? Which books might we find on your bedside table right now?

Root Magic by Eden Royce!!!! Whew!

Featherhood by Charlie Gilmour

Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry by John Murillo

Oracle by Destiny Hemphill

Spells: 21st Century Occult Poetry, ed. by Sarah Shin and Rebecca Tamás

What do you do when you aren’t writing?

I sit, feel, think, and read. I drink a lot of water. I take walks with my dog and watch birds. I have a vegetable garden, and I’m learning to cook new dishes. I allow myself to dream big about what I’m working on. I clean my home. All of these things help me to write. I attend a monthly group with artists across disciplines with the organization, ArtistsU. This space is highly generative to me as I create and learn to wonder. I also submit poems to magazines, journals, and opportunities that feel in alignment with my project. I enjoy rejections as well as acceptances. 

Why did you decide to pursue your MFA? What did you find most attractive about our low residency program and the low residency format? 

This will be my second Master’s degree. It turns out I love school. When I knew I would not be able to finish the low-residency program in Paris due to finances and COVID, I researched Converse’s program. I recalled that Kathryn Brackett mentioned it to me after I participated as an author during Hub City Press’s Delicious Reads event in Spartanburg. When I researched the program, I learned there was a research component and an oral defense required. I felt this would be tremendous for my goals as a writer. I love research, and I am fascinated by the interdisciplinary nature of any creative writing process. 

In what ways do you hope your writing will be further developed by our Converse core faculty, visiting faculty, and students? Do you have any writing goals you hope to accomplish?

I am going to finish my current manuscript and seek a publisher in alignment with what the project wants to accomplish. It is also important for me that the editor/publisher is considerate of who I am as a human being and writer. I am not a cog within a capitalistic system. I intend to complete my MFA with this attitude as well. 

I value instructors who know they, too, are participants and ongoing learners. I have been grateful to work with generous classmates and professors who are experienced writers and creatives with fantastical backgrounds in other things. 

I absolutely adore the visiting faculty craft talks. These talks bring in more diverse perspectives, and I value decentering whiteness, normative narratives, and craft talks from the 50s. 

In addition to your work on writing craft, how has the Converse program helped you in terms of navigating the publishing marketplace or the writing world?

I am still learning, for myself, how to listen to the deepest parts of me before sharing my work. I believe Converse has helped me to fall more deeply into the process of revision. I believe the publishing world is, if not being dismantled, being necessarily revised. I believe my life is under constant revision. So, I have learned to be clear within before I send anything out. It’s all revision! 

Why would you recommend the Converse College Low Residency Program to an MFA applicant?
I feel deeply that the faculty cares about each student and tries to figure out where that student is within their writing life. Many programs will not ask who you are when you arrive, and I feel it is important for programs to know what the student is bringing into the program. What has this student learned in their life already that will benefit our time in the workshop? I think these are good reasons to consider Converse College.

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